This is from the first chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends to join us.
THE MURDER – PART 2
I had finished a fairly busy evening in the emergency room— my first night on call in my first week of private practice in this tiny Smoky Mountain town—and, after seeing what I thought would be the evening’s last patient, I crossed the street to our home, hoping for a quiet night and some much-needed sleep. Sometime between sleep and sunrise, the shrill ring of the phone snatched me from my slumber.
“Dr. Larimore,” barked an official voice. “This is Deputy Rogers of the Swain County Sheriff’s Department. We’re at the site of an apparent homicide and need the coroner up here. I’ve been notified that you are the coroner on call. Is that correct, sir?”
“Ten-four,” I replied, in my most official coroner-type voice.
“Then, sir, we need you up at the Watkins place. Stat, sir.”
“Ten-four.” Boy, did I ever feel official and important as I placed the phone in its cradle.
I rolled over to inform Barb of the advent of my first coroner’s case. She didn’t even wake up. Nevertheless, I sat upright on the edge of the bed, beginning to feel the adrenaline rush of my first big professional adventure, when I suddenly moaned to myself and fell back into the bed. Where in the world is the Watkins place? I thought to myself. I hadn’t a clue. But I knew who would—Millie the dispatcher.
I hadn’t yet met Millie face-to-face, but already I felt I knew her after only a short time in town. Every doctor knew Millie, and she knew everything about every doctor—where they would be and what they would be doing at almost any time of any day. Equally important to me was that Millie knew where everyone’s “place” was.
So I phoned dispatch. She answered quickly and barked, almost with a snarl, “Swain County Dispatch. What you want?”
“Millie, this is Dr. Larimore.”
There was a long pause, then a condescending, “Yes, I know.”
I’d heard the older doctors refer to Millie’s “always courteous” and “helpful” demeanor. What was up with the dispatcher tonight? I wondered.
“Millie, where is the Watkins place?”
A big sigh was followed by a clipped statement of the obvious: “Son, it’s the scene of a crime tonight.”
Now I was feeling myself getting a bit impatient. “Right . . . Millie, I need to get up there.”
There was another long pause, then another condescending, “Yes, I know.”
I was quiet for a moment, then, almost pleading—in fact, begging—I said, “Millie, I need to know how to get there!”
Millie sighed again and—almost reluctantly, it seemed— gave me directions to the Watkins place.
A fifteen-minute drive from our home—smack-dab on the top of Hospital Hill—down winding mountain roads brought the on-call coroner to the scene of the crime. It wasn’t hard to find, with police and sheriff cars—their red lights blazing in the cool mountain air—gathered around a small frame house, bathing it in the whitewash of headlights. The border of the lawn—a small picket fence—was already surrounded with yellow crime-scene tape.
I parked outside the ring of official vehicles and quickly walked up to the house. It looked so small, so innocent, and so all-American. Deputy Rogers met me at the tape to lift it up and issue a warning: “Doc, it’s pretty gruesome in there.”
Obviously, I thought, you don’t understand that I am a trained professional. As would soon become painfully clear, I didn’t have a clue what I was about to walk into.
The sheriff met me at the door and shook my hand. This was our first meeting. A tall, bulky man, he looked more like an NFL linebacker than my preconceived idea of a small-county sheriff.
“Pleased to meet you, son. This your first case?”
“Yes, sir. It sure is.”
He motioned to the yard, and we walked out several feet to speak in confidence. He reached into his shirt pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes. Partially shaking out a couple, he offered me one.
“No thanks, Sheriff.”
He put one to his lips, lit it, and took a long drag.
“Son, it isn’t pretty in there. There was a woman and her daughter a visitin’ the man who owns the home. I’m not sure why. They was in the bedroom sittin’ on the bed. Apparently there was another man that come up to visit. He wasn’t expected or welcome. Apparently the entire crew had been drinkin’ a bit.”
I was to come to learn that “drinkin’ a bit” meant they were soused.
He went on. “Anyways, an argument commenced and apparently the fella that lived here grabbed a loaded shotgun out of his closet. The two fellas began to tussle a bit. The gun went off. So did the head of one of the fellas.”
He paused for a moment, for effect and for another long drag. For the first time he looked at me, eyeball-to-eyeball.
“Son, all I need you to certify is that this fella is dead and the cause of death. Then we’ll ship the body over to the morgue in Sylva. The pathologist will do the autopsy tomorrow.”
“No problem, Sheriff.”
He crushed out the half-smoked cigarette and then turned to return to the house. I followed.
(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT FRIDAY)
© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.